I went in with my expectations on the floor. First of all, the original Christopher Reeve Superman
movies were my favorite childhood movies. That's just asking for disappointment. Secondly, it feels a little weird to be ancticipating a Warner Brother's film when I now work for yet another TimeWarner company.* Finally, the buzz was all bad. Bad reviews, changed directors, apparent cowering in anticipation of pirates, none of it boded well. Then Scotto emailed a bunch of us with this quote
I saw the critic screening last night, and I have to say that the movie is a tapestry of missed opportunities. I was prepared to hate it, but the first half had such amazing moments that I ended up enjoying myself...until the second half, where it veered into the abyss and kicked my soul in the groin.
Wow, that's an intense mixed metaphor. So intense that when I shared it with editor Nancy Einhart
, she said that while she had had no plans to see the movie, she was now kind of curious just to see what the hell that guy was talking about. In email discussion it has been permuted from "kicked my soul in the groin" to "kick my soul's groin" to "a soul-kick to the groin," with a slight detour to "kicked my groin in the soul."
A bunch of us decided we still wanted to see this move, and pledged to shield each other. Our expectations were further lowered by the horrible, horrible medley commercials, commercials for previews, and trailers that preceeded the movie at Jack London Square. And then, finally, the Warner Brothers logo (I woohoo'd 'Time Warner!' probably utterly confounding the people around us) and then---the music. The John Williams Music. I really need to find my copy of that soundtrack, because damn if it doesn't still get me after 20 odd years. I took a deep breath, and remembered to keep my defenses up. And I kept them up for almost three hours.
And it turned out no shielding was necessary. Our groins, atmic** or otherwise, were safe and unharmed. It was a pretty good movie. If I wasn't so busy and cheap, I'd even consider going to see it again with 3D bits at the Metreon. I liked it. I'll almost certainly watch it again on DVD.
In fact--besides being just fine, which was a major accomplishment, given everything it was fighting, it was actually sort of objectively interesting and good. I think the filmmakers decided that it was simply too much to try and replacethe legend of Christopher Reeve, especially so soon after his tragic death. And so Brandon Routh's characterization is greatly in homage to him. And that's okay this time, because he did it well, and it needed to be done once. Scott told me that the rumors were he looked just like Reeve, and I was highly skeptical, especially after the opening scenes. But when Clark Kent first appeared on the screen I actually said, "ah!" out loud. And that helped me forget that I was watching a new person, and just watch the movie, and get lost in it. The differences emergde, and I think they show great promise, but now was not the time to expand on them. I'm not totally sold, but I think Routh may very well make the role his own, in a good way.
The movie is basically set up as a 5-year later sequel to Superman II, but with everything shifted into current times. Superman has been away for a few years. The big deal is that when he gets back he (actually, Clark) finds that Lois Lane has a live-in boyfriend and a son. When I read this in reviews I figured it would make for annoying soap opera, but it actually gave shape and substance to all three or four characters (depending on how you count), and made for a surprisingly sympathetic, admirable Lois Lane. It also includes a Lex Luthor who got out of jail legally, and has an army of henchmen including the celebrated Kal Penn. The weird thing is that this time around Kevin Spacey's Lex is actually almost nice to his henchmen, and there is nothing dorky about them. They are intelligent, efficent, engaged, very creepy villains--sympathetic almost, and not because they're being bullied by Lex. This makes him more sympathetic as well, and makes the climax of evil much more gruelling.
It's visually stunning, as is to be expected from the director of X2 and The Usual Suspects
. There were relatively few campy moments, though there was lots of iconic homage to the comics and the older movies, and lots of quiet little har-har we-love-this-old-joke moments. The action was also very much in homage, carefully updated but with a couple of major exceptions (and a lot of good use of water) not very surprising. The plot was kind of ripped off from a a classic science fiction novel by one of the great masters (I won't give it away, but maybe you should wear some sunblock) and the costuming and design was not terribly daring--Luthor et al got the best stuff there. But over all, I was happy, and I'm looking forward to the next one, which is always a good sign.
*Though TimeInc (Business 2.0) and DC Comics have absolutely nothing to do with each other as far as I can tell, which is too damn bad, because now that I work for a huge corporation, it would have been nice to feel like my colleagues include my first favorite reporter.
** In discussing this kick to the groin of one's soul, I realized we didn't have a good adjective for "having to do with the soul." It should be psychic, because Psyche really means soul, but it's come to mean mind. So I coined atmic, from Atma, the Sanskrit word for soul. Please share!